What to do if a stowaway is located on board? This short article provides useful advice to the master and other crewmembers on the required protocol and how the Club can assist
It is recommended that extra precautions are taken when calling at ports known to have increased stowaway activity, including restricting access to ships and making regular searches for stowaways before departure and immediately afterwards.
Most stowaways will reveal themselves within 48 hours of the ship being at sea due to lack of food and water. The reaction of the master once a stowaway has been found can have a big impact on the subsequent handling of the incident.
WHEN A STOWAWAY HAS BEEN FOUND, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE SHIP OWNERS/MANAGERS’ OFFICE IS ADVISED IMMEDIATELY
It is then essential that the P&I Club is contacted so that the Club can liaise with the network of correspondents and consultants straight away. Direct support can then be provided to the master on a daily basis until the conclusion of the case.
THE STOWAWAY MUST BE INTERVIEWED AND PHOTOGRAPHED
If at all possible, the master must find out the stowaway’s identity and nationality as this makes repatriation much easier. Ideally, there should be a questionnaire based on a stowaway’s supposed port of embarkation and specific to his nationality. Questions will include: port of embarkation, name, date of birth, home address and family contact details and nationality. There could be additional questions to discover nationality, such as identifying the President or describing the flag of the alleged country.
If more than one stowaway is discovered, interviews should be conducted separately with interpreters if necessary. To save precious time, interviews can often be arranged by telephone while the ship is at sea.
This information, together with a photograph (head and shoulders), should be sent by email to all parties as soon as possible and this will allow the Club to decide how best to deal with the case and to liaise with correspondents at the ship’s forthcoming ports of call.
It should be noted that stowaways frequently lie about their identities in order to delay disembarkation and if a master suspects this to be the case he should report this to the Club or the correspondents. Many stowaways are repeat offenders and therefore know what to expect when they are discovered and questioned.
THE STOWAWAY MUST BE SEARCHED
This might give clues as to the identity and nationality of the stowaway. They will often hide ID documents about their person or in the location on board where they were discovered.
A more experienced stowaway who has targeted a ship because of its voyage destination may carry a mobile telephone with many contact details stored or he may choose the more traditional method of carrying a notebook or Bible in which to log important information.
Modern technology, together with a proactive master who follows the steps detailed above, can help to identify the issues at an early stage and this can mean that the stowaway’s time on board is greatly reduced and does not unduly affect the day-to-day operation of the ship.